Greg's Family History

Ann Brookes - My Emigrant

Ann's parents can be identified as Thomas Brookes and Elizabeth Perry. Thomas was born about 1759. He was apprenticed to Joseph Starkey, a Stafford Baker on 20th Jun 1773 and admitted as a freeman of Stafford Borough on 11th Sept, 1780. The couple's earlier children were baptised on the day of their birth so they probably lived in Stafford town until about 1790.

They had probably moved to the Mill at St Thomas by 1791 when the Stafford section of the Universal Directory includes "Thomas Brookes, Miller & Baker". They were certainly there in 1793 when Thos. Brookes issued a receipt connected with St Thomas Mill. Brookes is mentioned at St Thomas again in 1798 when there was a dispute with local landowners over flooding. At this time he was renting the mill and some land from Lord Talbot at an annual rent of £75. It was proposed that he should be offered both the mill and the farm at St Thomas at a combined rent of £420 pa. By 1805 Brookes was also farming lands in Baswich owned by other landlords. This land appears to be some of that which had been involved in the 1798 dispute and which bordered St Thomas Mill on the Baswich side of the River Sow.

In 1809 the Staffordshire Advertiser carried the announcement that Ann Brookes 'of the extra-parochial place of St Thomas, adjoining to the parish of Tixall' was married at Tixall. Ann, had been born in Stafford in 1789. Her husband was William Mountford, baker of Hanley. His family were farmers who had lived in the North Staffordshire village of Meerbrook for many generations.

At the age of twelve, William had been apprenticed to Jonathan Broadhurst, a Baker of Scholar Green, a few miles away just over the border in Cheshire. Having served his apprenticeship he seems to have worked in Hanley. William and Ann had several children baptised in St John's, Hanley. Thomas (1811), Mary Brooks (1812) John (1813), Ralph (1815) and Richard (1819). A son, William, was baptised at St John's, Burslem (1817).

The economic slump at the end of the Napoleonic Wars caused a fear of civil unrest throughout the land; at the same time, the colony around Cape Town in Southern Africa, which had been ceded to Britain at the end of the war, was under threat from native tribes. The Government voted a grant to enable some of the surplus population to emigrate to the Cape and settle (and hopefully defend) the eastern frontier of the colony. During 1819 and 1820 more than four thousand men, women and children took advantage of the scheme which required the emigrants to form parties of about ten men and their families, each man paying a deposit of ten pounds which would be refundable once they began to work the land they had been allotted.

William and Ann, along with Thomas, Mary and William joined a party from Burslem (a neighbouring Potteries town) under Samuel Liversage. They left from Liverpool on 13 February, 1820 on the ship John. The John reached Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) in May. I do not know what became of the other Mountfort children but their fate may have been similar to that of the family of Thomas Manley, another of the party: Manley had originally planned to take seven children but only sailed with three because, as Samuel Liversage explained, ‘Some are ded and is frends take the other’.

Arriving on the 'savage and unpromising' shores of their new land’, the Liversage party were allocated land between Grahamstown and Bathurst in an area named Wilmot Vale on the Blaauwkrantz River. The Mountfords settled at Nurney Farm at Manley’s Flat.

William and Anne had several more children after they arrived in the Cape. Ann (born 10 June 1825), Joseph (born 10 Oct 1827) and Margaret (born 11 September 1827). All were born at Nurney and were baptised together at Commemoration Methodist Church, Grahamstown on 25 June 1837. Another son, Samuel, is also known.

Life on the eastern frontier of the Cape was hard. There were frequent skirmishes with the local tribes. Grahamstown was often garrisoned by the British Army stationed there to protect the colony. The Grahamstown Journal of 18 May 1846 carries a list of houses and stacks which ‘have been fired by the Kaffirs in Lower Albany’ this list includes ‘Mountford, 1 house [on Manley’s Flat]’.